© spurensucher - 27.10.2019

Ground floor in basement - mud flood in Moselle town



The little wine town on the Moselle is familiar to everyone, on a short visit I took a closer look at a few buildings ...



The village is not only idyllically situated, its architecture is also picturesque in places, absolutely suitable for picture books. Any non-European looking for a beautiful counterpart to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is in good hands here: Bernkastel on the Moselle is an appealing stopover with medieval flair for further tours in all directions. Maybe you stay a little longer, for example for a long weekend and stroll along the Moselle or in the vineyards behind it. The local wine bars compensate the visitor for extensive hikes or bicycle tours in the surrounding area.



Typical panoramic view of the old town centre: This wine bar from the first half of the 15th century is already in a breathtakingly uneven position.


Bernkastel is not only medieval, but also shows itself in the centre of the village from different sides. There are buildings side by side, which show high differences in age, but are still far backdated - sometimes from the 15th, sometimes from the 17th century. Strangely enough, I didn't notice any houses between these two periods. I then had a look and had to admit that there are already a few, but which can mainly be assigned to clerical purposes. Besides 1 or 2 more houses, that was it already from this time, if one can trust the traditions. (see also list of cultural monuments in Bernkastel-Kues). My assessment has not been fully confirmed, but it is a little surprising that so few houses have been built within 100 years. Has anything special happened from 1500-1600 ...?


A good stairway down

If one looks at the architecture of the many old houses, it is a little surprising that the ground floor is at least one good staircase lower in places. For quite some time, I have been trying to pay attention to such circumstances that seem to many others to be rather unimportant or do not even become conscious at all.

So I ask myself: What could have persuaded the architects of the idyllic half-timbered houses at that time to build doors for dwarves and set windows from which one can only risk a view outside from a frog's perspective?

OK, one thing in advance: Bernkastel has always been hit by flooding on the Moselle. Impressive in this context is an ice cream parlour in the old town centre, where you can see the water levels of the catastrophes.


Bernkastel_©Spurensucher_20191011_04This shows that the floods of the 90s in the last century must have been comparatively harmless, against the events of the 17th - 19th centuries.

But at the same time it also made me suspicious that you have to bend down when entering the shop to get in. A staircase leads down and I find myself in a kind of basement. Ad hoc I had to imagine what the whole thing must have looked like during the flood in the 17th century. At that time the water stood practically up to the ceiling.



Here you can see that the ground floor of this ice cream parlour is lower. After consultation with the tenant, I was assured that there was even a cellar underneath. Thus, with the deep windows and the entrance with the stairs downwards, there is no question that the earth has piled up around the building over the centuries.



Such entrances give an idea of how high the earth must have piled up around the houses over the centuries.


Promptly the question popped up in me, why one built in such a delicate flood situation at all so strangely. OK, first of all one could not know that such catastrophes were imminent when the house was possibly built. Is that true?


No, on closer inspection it turns out that such floods already existed in 1342. One could have learned from the so-called Magdalene flood, the mother of all Central European natural disasters. Here it came allegedly and at the same time strangely over 4 days continuous rain (3500 m³/s) in the summer, which caused basically all German rivers to overflow in substantial measure. Interestingly enough, the floods are said to have led to an infinite number of building collapses (half-timbered houses are said to have "collapsed"), which surprises me a little, after only four days of rain. But that is perhaps another topic. 1572/73 it should have gone then with the high water also once again to the thing can, until then the extreme event of 1651 should have expired similarly as later 1780. (Link).




Bernkastel_©Spurensucher_20191011_08The road continues uphill to the castle, the side doors of the building disappear under the street edge.


Bernkastel-Kues was built at the foot of the vineyards on a "light" slope. The situation is explained to me by the fact that the overflowing Moselle has led to heavy flooding in the houses, but also just as much mud flowed from above - that is: from the heights behind - down the slope. At best, the official historiography can only indirectly show this. Witness statements report however also in modern time "I sat comfortably on my couch and wanted to watch television, there it suddenly began to hail. Because of all the hail you couldn't see anything anymore. When I went outside I saw that a lot of mud and water came down the mountain and my cellar was full." (after a heavy rain in the area).


Window to the floor, the entrance to the ground floor a staircase below. A picture that is memorable on site.



This is the only way to explain the situation of numerous local houses that look like this. Their doors are lowered, one descends one staircase at a time. Outside, the mud floods must have taken their place after the flash floods, the spills could not be completely removed. As a result, the flooded streets in the higher parts of the town are a bit more pronounced than in the lower parts of the old town and further down to the harbour.


Bernkastel_©Spurensucher_20191011_11Windows are increasingly disappearing uphill under the streets.



Whether one would like to believe the weather analyses (just to the Magdalene flood situation 1342), its once put there. As always, the causes of the events of that time, especially with Central European dimensions, are difficult or impossible to research.

So deep it goes down: A construction site above the shore area, to the side of the country road E42, was recently excavated metre deep. The foundation walls, their original openings and the removed soil, which Inferno must have come downhill from above, are a sign of this. The population has always made the best of the situation. In principle the place got it constantly fist thick from two sides.


The red line corresponds to the street edge.